There is a reason why many people, including believers in Jesus, have the opinion that many Christians are aloof, unapproachable, and have unchristian behavior patterns. The things that many of them say, as well as the things that they never say, are a reflection of attitudes that are not in line with the heart of Christ. Sadly, this is harming the people of God, especially new believers in Jesus who do not know the Bible well. Because of their lack of Bible knowledge, they might not know when someone is misrepresenting the heart of Christ. There are many who undoubtedly would like to ask some Christians, “Why is it so easy for you to preach the truth to me, citing scripture after scripture, but it is so difficult for you to say something encouraging to me?
If we want to be Christians who do the will of the heart of Christ, we will edify the church; we will not discourage her. Every person who has received Jesus as Lord is part of the church.
Let’s focus on the need to learn what it means to love our brethren who are going through difficult times, tribulation, and the fiery trial of their faith. Following are some examples of the insensitive comments and statements that many Christians make in response to the suffering and the problems of their brethren in the faith. Take note of the words that are said, as well as those that are NOT said. And, compare the insensitive “Christian” responses with biblical responses that indeed do reflect the heart of Christ.
1. Should Christians who live in countries where they don’t suffer persecution for their faith in Jesus say to the martyrs: “Stand strong. You shouldn’t be sad because the Lord is our joy. You have to dress in the armor of God. That’s how we stand.” Although these words are true, they do not reflect the heart of Christ that is revealed when we read, “…Weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:15). “Bear ye one another’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2).
2. Is it okay for those who have parents that love them to say to the orphan who wants a father and mother: “Orphan, you shouldn’t be sad. Having parents is not what makes you happy in life. The Lord will be your Father and will take better care of you than a mother. The heart of Christ says, “I understand that you want a stable home and parents that love you. I join your prayers for God to grant your desire as there’s nothing wrong or abnormal in your desire. We read, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction…” (James 1:27).
3. Is it okay for those who can walk to say to the person in a wheel chair: “Being able to walk will not make you happy. The only thing we need is a relationship with the Lord to be happy. But, the apostles Peter and John, who had the heart of Christ, did not give such an insensitive response to the man who was born lame. We read, “Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer…. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate…. Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold I have none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up. And, immediately his feet and ancle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking and leaping, and praising God” (Acts 3:1-9). Finally, that man could enjoy what so many people take for granted.
4. Should women who are mothers say to women who are barren: “You shouldn’t be sad. Having children will not make you happy in life. You can have many spiritual children through your service to the Lord.” Does the heart of Christ give such a callous response to the desires of others? No, it does not. We read, “And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb. And she (Hannah) was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore. …And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife; and the Lord remembered her. Wherefore it came to pass when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel…. For this child I prayed (said Hannah). And the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him” (1 Samuel 1:6,10,19,20,27).
5. Is it right for married Christians to say to their single brothers and sisters: “You shouldn’t be sad. Having a husband or wife is not what makes you happy. The Lord is your joy. Do we forget how the heart of Christ responded to the desire of Hannah to have a child? The Lord did not make light of her desire. Why should Christians make light of the desires as well as the tribulations of their brethren in the Lord? If the only joy we need is the joy of the Lord, why did the Lord himself tell us to ask our petitions in his name that our joy may be FULL (St. John 16:24)?
6. Is is right for young Christians to tell the elderly believers who languish away in nursing homes: “You need not be sad, because you have the Lord. He is your friend and faithful companion.” What an insensitive and ugly response that does not reflect the caring heart of Christ. The Lord is the one who put the desire for friendship, as well as other desires, in man. He wants those desires satisfied, which is why he does not make light of them.
7. Is it right for those who have their freedom to tell our brethren imprisoned for their faith, as well as the innocent in prison: “Don’t be sad. If you are truly saved, Jesus is right there in prison with you. If these insensitive words truly reflected the heart of Christ, why then did Jesus say that when we visit our brethren in prisons it is the same as visiting him in prison (Matthew 25:31-46)?
8. Should gentile Christians, not having been subjected to the partial spiritual blindness that has happened to Israel, say things like: “The evidence that Christ is your Messiah and Savior of the world is as clear as can be, but you don’t see it. What’s wrong with you? The heart of Christ tells us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. True peace is Jesus. Do we love Christ, but not the people from which he came according to the flesh?
This list could go on and on. The idea is to keep in mind that when our brethren in the Lord are going through hardships, some of them are fighting the good fight of faith. The heart of Christ tells us to encourage, edify, and pray for them instead of making light of their troubles and their desires.
We are not told to send them negative messages that say that because they are depressed for a while that they are weak, abnormal, or don’t really know the Lord.
The Saints Experienced Great Depression
“For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8).
And, we read, “…Though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1: 6-7).
Let Us Not Be Like Job’s “Friends”
The insensitive words that come out of our mouth as well as the encouraging words that we do NOT speak send messages, sometimes very negative ones. Saying things like, “You don’t need this or that to be happy. Let the Lord be your joy,” amounts to taking a “holier than thou” attitude. It can be perceived as saying, “Were I in your shoes, I’d be strong in the Lord. I’d know how to “hide” myself in Jesus.”
Let’s not forget that the so-called friends of Job got into much trouble because of the words they spoke to a suffering servant of the Lord. They spoke words that did not come from the comforting heart of Christ. They provoked the anger of God (Job 42:7).
The apostle Paul defines true Christian love. We read, “Though I speak with tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity (love), I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity (love), I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned (sacrificed), and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity (love) suffereth long, and is kind. Charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth…” (1 Corinthians 13:1-6). Love is the heart of Christ.